George Cuda was (and remains to this day) a free spirit when operating as a flight line chief in the 600th Squadron of the 398th Bomb Group during its stay at Station 131. George was very serious about his responsibilities, which included the care and maintenance of three B-17s in the 600s C Flight. He supervised three crews and nine or more airplane mechanics. In addition to supervision, Cuda also worked expertly on all parts of the planes as needed and even did stand-by KP duty for some of his men when he felt they were needed more on the line than in the kitchen.
The long trek to the Mess Hall was like a burr under the saddle to Cuda. He felt it such a waste, as it cut into precious time required for such things as engine changes, flak damage repair, instrument tuning, etc. So one day he did something about it. The big Wright Cyclone engines came in large wooden packing crates. And there were lots of discarded bomb boxes lying about. So why not use this good lumber and build a shack out there near the dispersal area? This he did, locating his new home among the trees just a short walk from the 600 hard stand area. A cot, a chair, a stove, a lamp and Cuda could now dismiss the long hike or bike ride to the Mess Hall and Squadron huts. Friends in the Mess Hall supplied him with enough food to allow him to recluse in comfort in his new home.
Soon two more of his crew joined him and they had a regular commune country club hidden away in the woods. Among the perks Cuda initiated for his C Flight crewmen was an occasional delivery of Jerry cans filled with some of Englands tastiest brew. There was a pub (and it s still there today) located a couple of miles away at Langley Lower Green. The innkeeper and Cuda developed an understanding in their relationships that included an exchange of commodities for a pair of cans filled with the finest. In fact, Cuda, his bike and two Jerry cans became a familiar sight on the perimeter track near the dispersal area. It has been been suggested (although never completely verified) that one of the chief recipients of some of Englands finest (in addition to Cudas ground crew) was Col. Frank P. Hunter, the Group CO.
All seemed to be going quite well with the clandestine operation until one day an order came down demanding that ALL personnel would have to reside in their assigned Nissen huts. Obviously, this included Cuda and his fellow campers. Feeling this was an infringement on his B-17 care and maintenance program, Cuda used his Flight Chief prerogative and placed a red cross in the status column of every plane in his flight. This effectively grounded all his aircraft. Upon hearing this, Col. Hunter jumped into his jeep and raced to the 600 hard stand and demanded of Cuda, What goes?
George, the free spirit, responded with, We have to spend so much time traveling back and forth to the hut we just dont have time to get the planes ready. Col. Hunter, who knew of the wooded commune (and POSSIBLY knew of Cudas trips for Englands finest) responded with - OK Cuda, go back to your shanty. Now, LETS GET ON WITH THE WAR. The war that Cuda went back to was - fighting engine changes in the freezing cold of the winter of 1944-45, changing those huge B-17 tires, patching flak holes, doing the required but tedious slow time on new engines, etc, etc. until the final Group mission on April 25, 1945.
When everybody else went home, Cuda (the free spirit) did the unexpected (again). He got married to a local girl (by the name of Joy they are a devoted couple) and settled into the life as an Englishman at nearby Bishops Stortford. His home (as one would expect) is nestled all but unseen among the trees at a little country place called Par Green Berden. From there he ran the George Cuda Transport company, a small trucking operation that provided service between London and Scotland. Visited at his home, Cuda brings out a weathered, brown notebook, the pages held together with a pair of 1/8 bolts. Some of the pages have suffered from damage over the years, but most are clean and intact enough to recognize that it is the 600 Squadron Mission Logbook with dozens and dozens of names of those unsung souls who worked so hard to keepem flying. There can be no happier a group of souls in the world as those of a 398th group tour back to the old base area and be greeted with the enthusiasm of George Cuda. Hes still a 398er, true blue.
Abstracted from the Flak News of January 1991 by Wally Blackwell.
See also A Visit With George Cuda by Malcolm "Ozzie" Osborn